Mar 2013

Best Uses of Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting is best used for task lighting, wall lighting and accent lighting. Since recessed lighting can be directional, the light can be directed onto a work surface, or onto a wall or onto a piece of art. It is a tool that makes tasks visible, that washes an interesting feature on a vertical surface or that lights a painting or a sculpture. The most important part of the recessed fixture is the light bulb. The choice of the correct light bulb is crucial in creating the desired effect. The first decision any lighting designer makes is which light bulb to use. Fixture selection is secondary. Light bulb selection will be discussed in a future posting.

Improper Placement Of Recessed Lights

The kitchen pictured here is an example of task lighting gone wrong. The recessed lights look great and are supposed to illuminate the kitchen. They do illuminate the center of the kitchen. However, working at the counters along the sides of the kitchen is difficult because shadows are created on the work surface by having the light come from behind. Recessed lights in a kitchen should be aligned with the front edge of the counter tops to avoid this pitfall. This is the most common mistake made with recessed lighting, improper placement.

Lighting art is also a matter of proper placement. The recessed light must be directional, use the correct light bulb and be positioned at the correct distance from the wall so that the light hits the painting at a 30 degree angle. This is a function of ceiling height and the height at which the art is hung. The correct angle is important because when light from a light source strikes a surface light is reflected off that surface. The 30 degree angle insures that the reflected light does not shine back into the viewer’s eyes.

Lighting a wall is a terrific way to create interest in a feature, a fireplace or an accent wall. It also is a way to get more ambient light into a room. Placement and the correct fixture/light bulb combination is important here too. Usually the fixture will be placed close to the wall and shine straight down. Using this method of lighting adds depth to a room and increases visual interest.

I do not like using recessed lighting in living areas where people gather and sit and interact because light from above creates unattractive shadows on faces. Use recessed lights along the perimeter of these spaces if you use it at all.

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